TMJ is something we’ve talked about before, and really quite frequently (1, 2, 3). But why might you want a massage for your jaw if you have 1. Never had any injuries to your jaw, 2. Don’t clench / grind / etc. 3. Generally don’t get pain in your jaw?
Even if you don’t suffer from jaw pain or dysfunction on a daily basis, which is horrible, and no one should ever have to go through it, you might want to ask your Massage Therapist about jaw massage to help you with a few things.
- Headaches. Some of your jaw muscles actually wrap around the back of the jaw and attach onto the vertebrae at the top of your neck. When these jaw muscles get tight, they pull on those vertebrae, which then irritates the neck muscles, which causes headaches. Not to mention that your temporalis, another one of your jaw muscles, covers the sides of your head! If you get headaches regularly and you want to try something new to help, try some TMJ work.
- Ear pain. Again, because of proximity and attachments of musculature, tension within your jaw can cause ear pain. That’s not to say that if you have an ear infection, a jaw massage is going to get rid of it. But if you struggle with pain in or around your ears, a jaw massage might loosen it up enough for you to cope with it better.
- Shoulder tension. This goes back to #1–if the jaw is tight and pulling on neck muscles, that can translate down into your shoulders. If you think of someone grinding their teeth, you also will likely see that person trying to wear their shoulders as earrings, which is not fashionable, nor is it good for your musculoskeletal health.
- Hip pain. Now, you might be thinking that this might be a little out there, but hear me out. If you clench your teeth, you clench your butt. It could have something to do with the same verb being used, but the way your body interprets signals from your brain when you’re stressed usually just sends out a generic “clench” whisper. You likely don’t even notice you’re clenching your glutes until your Massage Therapist puts an elbow in them. Even if the clench is minor, it’s still there, which exacerbates your jaw pain, which exacerbates your hip pain.
- Whiplash. Many people who have sustained whiplash injuries usually focus on the immediate pains and aches, which are usually neck, shoulders, and back. But after a while, it will creep up into the jaw. At least, it seems like the pain “moves” to the jaw. The problem is: it was always there. You just didn’t notice it until other pains subsided enough for you to notice something else. Think about it: whiplash literally whips your neck around. What did we learn from #1? That jaw muscles are attached to your neck. Which means your jaw muscles were also injured during your whiplash injury. That’s part of it! So get your jaw massaged!
If you’re familiar with the process, the best, most thorough way of receiving jaw massage includes the LMT putting on gloves and massaging the musculature along the inside of your jaw. Don’t worry–we will be on the outside of your teeth, we won’t choke you, and we won’t be putting anything sharp in your mouth. We don’t have to see inside your mouth either, so don’t feel like you’re in some kind of checkup. Like everything else, we are concerned with the muscles. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to try.